First, "Community Dance Manuals" - clear but old-fashioned. Second,
other callers: collect them. It's polite to ask the caller first.
You need about fifteen for an evening. It used to be that everyone knew
them, but now you need to know them for them.
Note that you can't tell the type from the time signature.
Phrases: come in 8 or 16 bars, A or B. For example, AABB... This forms
the basis of the notation when recording dance steps.
6/8 time. 4 bars intro plus 32 bars: 16 steps equals 8 bars. "Diddly
diddly". Bouncing, galloping, good for beginners, lots of drive.
4/4 or 2/2 time. "One two three (hop) and a two two three (hop) and a
three two three (hop)".
Also called Hornpipes, though they aren't. Americans play hornpipes at
9/8 time. Strip the Willow. Unphased dances: just keep going, changing
4/4 time, but a bit syncopated. Polkas and step hops are more modern
than rants, and slower.
This is actually a music-specific term, pretty much 4/4. Fast, flat,
120 beats per minute.
3 The Night
Watch out for weddings; people tend to be tired, drunk, leave dances.
- Arrive early.
- Identify the bar, fire exits, escape routes.
- Meet the band.
- Meet organisers, check timings - raffle, breaks.
- Dress up.
4 The Walk-through
You can over-teach, but this is better than underteaching.
You must have the first dances down pat. They tell you about the
audience you have. If you do a right-hand star and they get the
left-hand back, you're laughing!
Teach the jargon as you go.
Pick a good set to demonstrate.
Teach the timing as you go: put a gallop down-and-back in the first
It's okay to jump in yourself.
You may have to abandon a set if they're having real problems,
otherwise it slows things down for everyone else. If someone is being
difficult, go down and sort it in person - it's simpler and no-one
hears your desperation. Don't watch them.
Put lots of contact in the early dances to help them get it: Grand
Chains are good.
Use a simple dance if everything is going wrong. People want to do it
You can start with a big dance for everyone.
Do progression separately.
Longways with lots of people are good, do one early.
People know what a circle is: put them in that first.
You can play music as people come onto the floor, but this can make it
difficult to encourage more people.
5 Calling during the dance
Give the rhythm as you call: "And down and two and three and four..."
Good bands phrase very clearly from the off.
Give an instruction clearly at the correct point in the music just
before it is needed.
Don't panic and speed up.
You can use a longer explanation with a strong "go" word on the beat:
"Right hand star - go ROUND". Reinforce the music at all times.
Stay on the stage.
Just before starting give a quick reminder of how to start.
Check the introduction length with the band.
Announce the last time through for the benefit of the dancers and band.
Do a hopstep dance third or fourth: let people know what to do with
their feet when dancing.
Put dubious dances (ie your own) earlier in the playlist, so people can
6 Calling Attitudes
Thank the band by name.
It's always the caller's fault.
You are an entertainer and performer.
Don't play tricks to make the dancers wrong.
A dance is a treasure to present.